After our group of 15 arrived in Romania late last night, the older teens and adults that still had energy ate a tasty dinner, had hot showers, prayed together, and then hit the sack! Imagine the next day starting to wake up at daylight. For a couple of groggy moments, you savor that peaceful feeling of warmth, safety, and security. Then comes that strange sensation of not really knowing where you are – when you wake up somewhere new. Imagine waking up in Romania! And reality starts flooding in.
Although Romania is a lovely place – it is not home. And even though most of our Ukrainian refugees come from less-than-ideal homes, it is still a known and secure place. The number 1 question we get asked these days is, “How long will we stay here?” We remind them that they can stay as long as they want. They are safe here. There is no war here. Try and relax. Then the same question, although worded slightly different comes, “Where will we go next? And when?”
When talking to the adults, we ask them if they would like to stay in Romania. Legally, they are allowed to stay for 90 days, but if they want to stay longer, Romania says they need to have a job. We have people who are happy to help our guardians find work, and many of the moms want to provide for their families. We also ask whether they have any relatives or friends further afield in Germany or Poland, and if they have any idea of where they would like to go while the war in Ukraine rages on. Usually, they do not have anywhere else to go. However, from the other kids at the orphanage, they have heard all about Italy and assume they will go there too. However, although it is a lot, our Italian host families have so far only taken in the kids (plus siblings & guardians!) they have hosted previously. But everyone wants to go to Italy…
In the pre-dawn hours of the morning, 55 of our Ukrainian evacuees loaded up an Italian coach bus and started out on the next 12-hour leg of their journey. After several unsuccessful attempts at chartering a bus in Romania, trying to figure out how to get free bus tickets for 55 people (most of whom are children), general 5-way confusion & lots of wild hand gestures, we finally agreed (insisted) that the Italian sponsors should organize their own bus and come pick the kids up. Thankfully during most of this confusion, they had gathered all kinds of humanitarian aid from the greater Venice area, so they loaded up the cargo hold of the bus, packed lunches & snacks for each passenger and headed to Oradea.
After unloading the humanitarian aid and storing it for our drivers who will eventually take it back to the orphanage in Ukraine (there are still many kids left!) it was time to say arrivederci. It was a bittersweet sight to see this bus full of loved ones lumber off into the hills of Oradea just as the sun was coming up. By the time you read this missive, the children should have all arrived in the homes of their loving, and extremely enthusiastic Italian host families. May God bless them. And May God bless us, as we try to evacuate more.